The subject of the earthly death of The Nazarene-Son of man has had volumes of comments, but, unfortunately as with most ‘Christian’ writings, they are conditioned by the traditions of the past which started hundreds of years after his physical death.
This information will of course strike one as off the course of 'traditions' as such, since The Bible evidences some other aspects, noted by a ' little flock' of Bible students, as not comporting with the generally understood ideas regarding the attempt, mode and result of The Son's ceasing to exist in a physical body.
Anyone familiar with The Bible's record, cannot fail to appreciate the fact, that, the opposing spirit, whose character became his title, Satan, was really behind this most famous of executions. (Satan = Resistor or Opposer [The Bible gives no name for this opposing spirit creature; Lucifer is a mistaken name drawn from the King James Version ]). This Satan is out to destroy, or distract anyone and anything that is attracted to YHWH and His Son's Truth and Purpose.
The information now presented is given as 'food for thought' since the records we have now are not explicit and descriptive of every detail. Therefore, any conclusion derived from prayerful and contextual unconditioned research, should not be judged as the correct or incorrect explanation by any self-claimed orthodox or self-proclaimed "true religion." This is true particularly if such want to use a finding as a basis of labeling others as pseudo Christians, or followers of The Nazarene-Son of Man.
It has been observed by many that the first prophetic utterance recorded is found in Genesis 3:15, in which we are given insight into the intent of murdering the Seed of the Woman, a figurative term for YHWH's Heavenly Family. (Hebrews 12:22-24) This Seed is The Son of Man brought forth from that Family. (John 8:23)
This prophecy also shows how the attempt would fall short of it's intended purpose: ‘You will bruise him in the heal.’ This is definitely not a death-blow, as would be the case when what (the Seed) would do by inflicting a crush[ed] head upon the Serpent. (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20) This resulting fulfillment is in harmony with another Biblical principle: ‘He digs a trap, scoops it out, but he falls into the snare he made himself.’ (Psalm 7:15 New Jerusalem Bible)
So, the question is: "How did the intended murder of The Son of Man occur?"
The Bible uses the Biblical Hebrew and Greek terms: עץ `ets and תלה talah (Heb); and ... σταυροω and σταυρος, in referring to the instrument of death [עץ `ets & ξυλον having primary senses of wood, tree, post, gibbet ... various Biblical Greek lexicons]; and, the 'hanging' [ = תלה talah and σταυροω] of someone upon a tree-wood, as the means to effect a torturous death. In fact, one of the derogatory names applied to Christian followers of The Son of Man in the Talmud is: עבדי תלי [you may not receive the Heb fonts] or "worshippers of the Hung." And, according to their fable, he was first stoned, then hung on the Tree. There are both, in Jewish and Roman histories, testimony of the killing of some before hanging them up for public display. (LC / FF-p 638 & ScrtGolg / EM p 184)
There are references that could indicate our Lord was taken to be fastened to a tree, his wrists (hands) to be nailed to a patibulum, by which he was hoisted up and this patibulum secured to the living tree. The Bible's proscribed order was to hang one upon a tree after being executed, for an "object lesson" to the nation: ‘... you shall surely kill him ... you shall stone him to death with stones, because he has sought to draw you away from Yahweh... and he is put to death and you hang him on a tree...’ (Deuteronomy 13:10,11; 21:21-23, The Sacred Scriptures)
However, some think that while he was on the wood (xy-lon), is when the stoning occurred. [This also because it was the Romans who did the actual executing process, NOT the Jews, and so Mai.mon'i.des' and Kalinski's comments would not apply] In either case, such further continued physical abuse possibly contributed to death by heart attack. The later from bearing the burden of the nation's sin and sorrow over their callousness toward his Father's purpose -- evidenced by the separation of water & blood when stabbed in the side. Such separation occurs when the main aorta burst, in this case, from extreme stress. (Matthew 27:49) And so both contributed to his physical death, the heart-attack first, immediately followed by hypovolemic shock caused by continued hours of bodily abuse.
The Nazarene was "hung" on a large tree, together with two others judged to also be worthy of being executed. Hung, that is fastened, to the Tree-wood, Jesus, along with the two other offenders, could be said to be in their midst while, depending on the angle of approach to the tree come to the Nazarene last instead of second. This may account for the record telling how the soldiers broke the legs of these two and then when they came to The Son of Man they, ‘coming unto YAHSHUA, when they saw that he was already dead, they brake not his legs.’ (John 19:31-34, Restoration of the Original Sacred Name Bible)
This reveals that the event was a hurried affair because of the religiosity of the Jews. Also this may hint at the mistreatment he must have suffered before. Should he not, as a perfect physical person, have outlasted the two criminals.
All the above, is a sort of combining of observations regarding the records. Was it on a living tree, wood, stake, pole or cross that the hanging of our Lord took place? Since the Bible uses terms that initially indicate a tree in most of its usage’s, and since trees were valued and not abundant (adding the fact that it was a hurried event) a large live tree seems most probable, in the contextual descriptions. This would have been something like the West’s "hanging tree." Additionally, some think wood-stake or pole, drawn mostly from just STAUROS, and possibly from the influence of the mentioning of how Jews at that time viewed this instrument connected with the death of a Jew, was abominable, and should, therefore, be burned and/or buried after its use. In affect, the instrument was unclean.
However, as mentioned earlier, the original process, described in Deuteronomy chapters 13 and 21, was to first kill the convicted one, then hang that one up, just for the day. It was the victim that was viewed as accursed, not the tree on which he was hung. As Paul himself puts it: ‘Cursed [is] everyone having been hung on a tree.’ (Galatians 3:13 Literal Translation of The Holy Bible) Again, keep in mind, this was not a Jewish process. They "contracted" the Roman secularist to carry out their murderous intent! [Though in the Book of Acts much of the blame is placed on the Jews for the execution of the Nazarene. (Acts 2:23; 4:27)]
Of course, this disrupts the well used passage understood with the later-Latin '"cross" definition: ‘pick up your cross and follow me.’ However, as with many other subjects discussed in the Biblical Articles, we are not concerned with old traditional religious sentimentality, but YHWH's Revealed Truth's. With this other sense considered, Matthew 16:24 could be literally paraphrased: ‘Be resolved to hold to YOUR intent to the death following Me!’ Or, more poetically, ‘Be resolute to the Tree if YOU follow Me.’
Does The Nazarene-Messiah's early death free any involved from being guilty of murder? Not really, for if it had not been cut short, their intent was unchanged. No where do we read of anyone trying to stop the situation. We must admit here, we are still in wonderment that not any of Jesus' chosen twelve Apostles, or any other Disciple, stepped in to protest. Particularly considering the prided loyalty of the Orientals known for their martial zeal as something much like the Japanese kamikaze in our generation. Surely, it was in part to the prophetic development of events.
Some try to pass this off lightly, saying that the Nazarene was foretold to die, and any obstruction would not change that, but only cause punishment on those attempting it! As ‘Abraham (as good as) offered up Isaac’ (Hebrews 11:17), so those involved with our Lord's intended death, "as good as" murdered him!
By extension into the symbolic: thinking of how unending-Life was lost, through the Edenic instrument of a Living-Tree, what a parallel it makes that the means for restoring that same quality of Life be restored by using the instrument of another Living-Tree on Golgotha. From the first the "fruit" was wrong removed initiating death, and in the latter, fruitage was put back on the branches, making a restoration of unending-Life possible again. (1 Corinthians 15:23, 45)
Also, his early death by his own internal causes, [and likely YHWH’s intervention (Compare Isaiah 53:10 Hebrew Text with Luke 22:44)] cut short Satan and his earthly agents' plan to murder the Nazarene!
Constantine's ' Latin cross' ? Latin lexicons show that the earlier meanings of crux as being a tree, frame, or other wooden instrument of execution. IF it was the traditionally represented cross, later called the "Latin cross." There is no devotional or symbolic use of this type of cross among the early Nazarene community until after the 4th century CE began. This should be kept in mind when viewing "cross" as a 'definition and rendering in dictionaries, lexicons and documentaries!
It certainly would add to the insult of the homicidal purpose toward the Son of Man, since this type of cross was a secular symbol used in non-Biblical religions. H. Fulda's stake is the next closest probability, but the language of The Bible, and the above reasoning, seem to present more closely the sense of a tree. Note also the sense and renderings in Luke 23:31 and Acts 5:30 in various translations and Biblical Greek / English interlinears.
Does it matter what the mode and manner was? As was mentioned earlier, this should not be an issue over which to "judge" one another. The records do not specify in exact terms the subject considered about which we can make any bold assertions. What has been presented is based on the texts and knowledge we have at the present time. For surely, did not his death pay a price alone for which we all can be grateful? Why become divided over that precious sacrifice with isolated theological-semantic demands?
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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